Creative Strategies for Content Writers

This week, I talk with copywriter and content creator Kaleigh Moore about her tips for staying productive and creative.

Content marketing isn’t an easy game — and when you create content for clients, you need to develop strong skills and habits to keep the creativity flowing.

In this 21-minute episode, I talk with writer Kaleigh Moore about her favorite tips for generating ideas and getting a high volume of quality work done.

We talk about:

  • Her favorite resource for the blog topics that people will actually want to read
  • Finding and shaping a brand voice for your clients
  • Kaleigh’s tips for structuring longer content to keep readers engaged
  • How to prep to write a great piece of content

The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details.
  • You can learn more about Kaleigh at her blog.
  • Kaleigh’s tips on structuring content like a pro.
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

Creative Strategies for Content Writers

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs.

If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there. It is so good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I am the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hangout with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get additional links, additional resources by putting Copyblogger.FM into your browser.

I am very pleased today to be joined by Kaleigh Moore. Kaleigh, how are you doing today?

Kaleigh Moore: I’m doing well. Thank you.

Sonia Simone: I’m really pleased that you could join us. We just had an interesting email conversation with my team about some of the things that you’re doing with content and content marketing. I thought people would love to know more about it.

Let’s just get started by letting us know who you are, what you do, what kind of clients you work with, that kind of thing.

Kaleigh Moore: Sure. I am a freelance copywriter or content writer, whichever you like to call it. I’ve been doing this full time for about a little over three years now. And the niche that I focus in is the e-commerce and software-as-a-service world.

Some of the people I work with on a regular basis are folks like Campaign Monitor or Kissmetrics. Or a lot of e-commerce platforms, so like BigCommerce, places like that.

What I do for them is I create blog content. So they’ll give me a topic or I’ll maybe pitch one to them, and then I’ll hash out a really in-depth and interesting piece of content for them.

Sonia Simone: Cool. How did you strike on that as your area of specialty? What led to that?

Kaleigh Moore: I had a background in e-commerce. I owned my own store selling jewelry online for about five years. I had some hands-on experience in that world, which made it really relevant to share my expertise and write about those types of topics.

The software one, I just fell into. It’s kind of serendipitous the way it happened. I was speaking with somebody on Twitter, who happened to work for a software company. She was the content manager there. She and I just built up a relationship back and forth.

And so organically we were talking one day, and I was telling her about the freelance writing work I was doing on the side. And she said, “Oh, we actually have an opportunity. We’re looking for some freelancers to bring on as well, so would you like to work with us and see if it’s a good fit?”

That’s just the first introduction I got to that type of customer, and so referrals grew organically from there.

Sonia Simone: Wow. That’s awesome. I thought you had — I really like your blog. I think it’s really interesting.

I really like some of the ideas you have around — as you know, content marketing and blogging in particular can be intimidating, because I think people have a hard time knowing what to write about. They have a hard time feeling confident that what they’re writing about is interesting.

I just thought maybe I would throw a couple questions at you. I know one of your specialties is just brainstorming blog topics that somebody actually would want to read. I wondered if you could share some insights with us about, when it’s time for you to sit down and maybe come up with some pitches for a client, what’s your process?

How Kaleigh Preps to Write a Great Piece of Content

Kaleigh Moore: Of course, the first thing I always ask is, “What’s your target audience, and what are your goals for the type of content that we’re going to be creating?”

Those are, of course, always the foundation of creating a good piece of content. Making sure that you’re writing for the right person and in the right voice that they need to hear as well.

Topic wise, we go through a couple of different things. We look at what content is already out there, because of course you don’t want to be saying the same thing everybody else has already covered. We look for, well what are some new things that are happening — or maybe, what are some past topics from your blog that have performed really well — to find out what people want to read about and what they enjoy sharing.

That’s another thing we look at: What are the pieces of content that are getting the most social shares or the most engagement — comments on Facebook, things like that? And just bringing all those elements together to start with some titles that sound interesting. And then building off of that from here, building out the outline, and really constructing something that’s new and interesting. And bring something new to conversations that are already happening but has a unique angle.

Sonia Simone: Right. Talk about that a little bit — just conversations that are already happening.

I think that’s so interesting, because I think a lot of times folks fall into one or two traps. They either write about things nobody cares about, just things that are not on anybody’s mind. Or then, of course, the other side of that is the ‘it’s so tried and true.’

I see this a lot. You see the same — almost to the same headline — blog post come out on 10 or 12 or 20 different blogs in the same category. And why somebody is going to read yours? What on earth are you doing that’s different here?

How do you navigate that — that tension, if you want to call it that. Or do you have any tips for that different, but not too different?

Kaleigh’s Favorite Resources for the Blog Topics that People Will Actually Want to Read

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. I think an interesting way to, at least the way I approach articles, is a rhetorical standpoint. A lot of the people are churning out these pieces of content that are all about the same topics.

Like marketing automation, for one example, is something we’re seeing a lot about. Just tons and tons of posts. But we’re not seeing a lot of original content about these types of things. So kind of trying to take a unique spin on it.

Some places I go for ideas are unconventional I think. And maybe I’m not talking to enough people, but going to the forums and seeing what kind of questions are being asked around these topics, and then addressing those questions within the content. Places like Or Facebook groups who are for groups of marketers. Or Skype channels, or places like even Reddit.

Just going through channels and seeing what are the types of questions that are being asked, and how can we create something that tackles those questions. But it’s also conversational, and interesting to read, and not super scientific to where it’s really dull and tough to wade through.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s funny because I think we’ve been saying that for a long time. And yet I think at lot of people don’t do it, is that just simple social media, just listening.

I think so many people are really quick to get into the conversation. Which is great, conversation is good. But there’s so much you can do just from listening to the conversation. I think sometimes, especially folks who are social media savvy, they just want to jump in and participate.

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. For sure, I see that all the time.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. All right, good. Well, let’s talk about I think one of the most interesting things for folks like you.

I did this for quite a while as my career. People who write for somebody else, either in a company or freelance — and a lot of times a lot of writers will go back and forth on those.

You’ve got the brand voice, and then you’ve got the customer language, and then you have your writing voice. You come to the game with a writing voice.

When you’re writing for a new client, first how do you find that brand voice for the client? Are there some steps you go through? How much do you work with a client to maybe shape that voice, and then what do you do if you feel like the brand voice for the customer, for your client, is really not hitting it when it comes to their customers. It’s really not resonant.

Finding and Shaping a Brand Voice for Your Clients

Kaleigh Moore: Well, there’s two ways I’ve seen this go. One is I will start working with a new client and they have everything covered. They have a style guide. “Here’s our writing voice. Here’s some examples you need to familiar yourself with.” In that instance, it’s really just a matter of shaping my writing voice to make it sound like they want it.

They are very clear about what they want. They’ve got everything spelled out, and it’s really just dive right in and write in this style. Just mirror what we’re already doing.

In the cases where they don’t exactly know, I think you have to work through again some of those very preliminary questions about: Who are your audience, and what is your brand persona? Who are you as a company? What is the best, most relevant type of voice for the customer you’re trying to target?

If you’re a law firm or you’re a doctor’s office, obviously it’s going to be very formal and grounded and very serious. If you’re a brand with a little bit more personality, you can experiment with different quirky tones and really conversational content.

And it’s a learning experience at first. You might find that people really enjoy reading that conversational tone, and you can let your own writing voice shine in those instances. In some cases you find that’s just, it’s not really what the customer is looking for, and it feels out of place. So you have to tone it back a little bit.

It’s tough. You really just have to trial and error for those instances where they’re not sure yet.

I’ve personally found that a lot of the time people really do crave that conversational, fun writing voice. Because so much of what we’re seeing is just stale and very formal, and it’s not that engaging when you’re reading it. I tend to lean a little bit more that way, because I have seen it before to well for other clients.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I think it’s a bit of a revolution.

And I was battling this a little bit with organizations I was in. They have what we think of as a corporate voice. And trying to get them to understand that that may not be really all that resonant for their customers. And if it’s not resonant for the customers, it’s not going to really give you the results you want.

Kaleigh Moore: Very true. Yeah, it’s hard. Because in some situations, the companies need that formality to build their ethos and authority as a very secure company and that people can trust. It’s just not that interesting to read, so you have to strike that balance between fun and your life, I guess.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, for sure. You have some clients you do quite a bit of blog content for. I think, for me, I don’t necessarily have an easy time always knowing which to write about.

Do you have any tricks — any, “Oh boy, I just did a big push for this client, and I produced a lot of work I was proud of. And now it’s a new month and I’ve got to do it again.”

Do you have any tricks?

Kaleigh Moore: I really like going into the Slack channels that I’m part of and, again, just seeing what people are asking questions about, what people are talking about. That’s usually a good kick-starter for getting some ideas.

I also like looking at the new things that are coming out in the news articles about changes in marketing technology. Those are always quickly changing, and new topics to talk about there.

Again, just going to the forums and the places where there’s a ton of content being shared all the time. Looking at which things are getting a lot of engagement, where people are commenting and sharing. Those obviously jump out as the topics that people are really interested in, because they’re taking the time to comment on those.

Thinking about, “What’s a unique way I can build something off of this conversation thread?”

Sonia Simone: Now, do you take sort of a new, like a breaking-news approach. Like, “Okay, a lot of people are confused about how to do this automation, so here’s a tutorial.” Or do you come at it with more of a feature-article idea, where using more analogies or storytelling — or what’s your approach usually?

Kaleigh Moore: It depends on the client. Some of my clients really like the step by step with lots of examples, where you have screenshots of how to work through a process from start to finish. And then in other instances, it’s much more high level. They want some statistics that indicate a trend or make some point and then build a story around that, rather than really getting super in-depth with things.

It depends on the medium, but definitely a little bit of both.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Make it useful and make it interesting. It has to be both.

Well, I know you have — and I think every working, busy professional writer does have a lot of thoughts on structure. Partly because it’s just how we stay sane and how we know we can keep producing good content for our clients. I know you have some thoughts on structuring especially the long content.

Long-form content — it’s great for copywriters, because you can charge good money for all those words. It’s great for clients because it can be really nice for search engine rankings to have a little bit of the more meaty, the more long-form content in there.

Do you want to share your pro tips on structuring that content?

Kaleigh’s Tips for Structuring Longer Content to Keep Readers Engaged

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. When I’ve written for places that are really known for their authority, for their long, in-depth content, I’ve noticed some commonalities between the way that they structure their content.

And there’s three major things that I try to keep in mind when I’m creating the outline for those types of posts.

The intro is always — and I see this on the Copyblogger blog as well. It’s always short sentences. It really gets the reader into a slow reading process, where they’re really just slowly being lured in. And it’s interesting. It’s one sentence at a time.

You’re not presenting this big chunk of text right off the bat. It just naturally gets the person moving down the page. It’s very conversational. There might be a little bit of snarky humor sometimes. It feels good to read. It’s very easy reading.

I always try to keep the intro in that form. Where it’s fun, it answers a question. It previews what’s coming, but it’s also very conversational, very natural feeling as you’re reading through it. It leads you through nicely.

The middle is where you really dive in with tons of research and examples and screenshots. Maybe a couple GIFs, however you decided to say that. Big debate, I know.

Typically I’ll find myself spending anywhere from four to eight hours working on the middle section, just making it really in-depth. If they want a walkthrough, doing it start to finish – “Here’s all the steps you need to complete a process.”

Really presenting examples to back up a question I’ve asked in the beginning. Or answer that question. Or indicate why something is worth nothing, worth paying attention to if it’s a trend or something like that. Really spending a lot of time on making the core of the article just extremely value-packed for the reader.

The ending is really just a quick wrap-up, where you’re reminding the reader of all the topics and the points that you made within. Just a quick bullet list, or something like that.

It’s about the conversational open, the really meaty middle section, and then just a quick recap at the end. Across the board, I’ve seen that that structure seems to do really well. So that’s what I stick to.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s one thing when you have that many words. You have to have a decent skeleton to hang it all on, or else it can become just not interesting, which is no fun.

I always like to ask people this when I do an interview podcast. Which is, of course, Copyblogger has lots of readers, and Copyblogger FM has lots of listeners who are professional content creators.

Some of them are freelancers, some of them are working in organizations, and some of them have their own companies. If you had a piece of advice for these writers, maybe to make their content more compelling, more effective, what do you think it might be?

Kaleigh Moore: I would say probably just spend a little more time on it. It’s so easy to churn out a thousand words and call it good. But the content that does really well, and stands the test of time, and does all the wonderful things you wanted to for search engine rankings and things like that are the posts that take a long time to put together. Whether it’s research, whether it’s actually writing.

Those really thoughtful pieces of content are what I’ve seen do really well. So spending a little bit more time, even if it a little painful to crank out a higher volume of words or it costs a little more to pay somebody to do that.

Those pieces are extremely valuable, and they can help you position yourself as a thought leader. They can answer questions better that your customers might be facing. They’re just more valuable in the long run, so I would love to see more of that in the content world.

Sonia Simone: I know, me too. I’d rather see you take four times as long on one piece of content than four little pieces of the me-too stuff that we all see.

Kaleigh Moore: Yes, absolutely.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Because it doesn’t do you that much good.

Kaleigh Moore: It doesn’t. It’s quick and easy to write, and sometimes you can make a quick point in those post. But you’re not getting anything really packed with value or that’s going to change somebody’s mind about something.

Sonia Simone: Right, exactly. I like that.

All right, fantastic. How can people find out more about what you do? I really like, you give lots of really cool tips on your blog. So where can people find you?

Kaleigh Moore: I am at And my first name is difficult to spell, so I’ll make sure that I get that correct spelling to you.

I’m also on Twitter @kaleighf. Also difficult to spell, but yes. Twitter is where I spend a lot of my time, so that’s a great place to connect if people are interested in doing so.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s a funny thing. You notice that writers love it. Everybody else is like, “I don’t get why people with these Twitter.” And writers are like, “Twitter is the best one. That’s the most fun place.”

Kaleigh Moore: It is. I love it. And like you said, I see lot of other writers spending time there. It’s a good place to be.

Sonia Simone: It’s a great place to be. All right.

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you dropping by and sharing some pro knowledge with us. And I will talk to you soon.

Kaleigh Moore: Okay. Thank you so much.

Sonia Simone: Thank you so much.